Valley Lives - Alan Hopkins

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 11, 2009 issue. Reprinted with permission.

A 'pillar' who helped build Hills' pillars

by Mark Burgess

The Gatineau Hills lost the architect of some of its iconic public and private spaces when Alan Hopkins - whose pencil-toting hand touched the Kingswood Estate, the Wakefield Mill and the Pot au Feu restaurants' renovations among many other projects - died Nov. 2 at the age of 70.

"He was a pillar of the community, truly," said Art Mantell, the former publisher of this paper and a neighbour of Hopkins'. "Not only a pillar but he helped build pillars in this community."

Hopkins graduated from McGill University in 1964 with a degree in architecture, and he went on to specialize in restoration. He met his wife, Melanie, during a summer break in Chelsea at the cottage next door to where she lives now. She remembers a true case of 'love at first sight' where she thought he was the man she would marry even before they talked.

Valley Lives
Alan Hopkins as a McGill graduate in 1964. Photo courtesy Lisa Hopkins.

"Alan was my 'one true love,'" she wrote in an email. "I always laughed when he referred to me as his 'trophy wife' because he said he got it right the first time! I admired and respected him immensely. He was an amazing man - passionate about everything in his life. There will never be another Alan, we had the most interesting and exciting life - never boring that's for sure."

There was nothing boring about his buildings either. The Hopkins house that he built in Burnett is a green octagon that his daughter Lisa compared to "a spaceship." He called it the Chrisalis after his two children, Christopher, 46, and Lisa, 42.

More famous is the Chrisalis II, the paddle-wheeler he built from the ramshackle hull of a 25-year-old logging barge that Mantell said should be a tourist attraction. It's anchored just offshore from its octagonal predecessor and served as the Hopkins' summer home, as well as the site of more than a few memorable parties.

Hopkins was a founder and the architect of the Cascades Squash Club and he remodelled the Wakefield General Store from its century-old frame to a modern, functioning business.

Valley Lives
The Chrisalis II, Hopkins' paddle-wheeler built from an old logging barge. Mark Burgess photo.

The Pot au Feu restaurant, which he restored from the former train station with Roman Braglewicz in 1971, was also the home to Melanie's pottery business - The Pot Shop - and his son Chris worked there as a waiter.

Others may remember him as co-architect of one of the Hills' most famous music festivals - Wayne Rostadt's Gatineau Clog - which began with hundreds of visitors in Vorlage and ended with thousands at Low's Tucker Lake. More recently, Hopkins drew the plans for the renovation of Wakefield's Fairbairn House museum and spent much of his time working on his 1953 MGTD.

Chris fondly remembers his father teaching him to ski at Vorlage and forgiving him for writing off his car when he was 18. Lisa recalls his tales of swimming with sharks and manta rays, and his affection for his two grandchildren, Hans and Tyler.

"He was a good father and gave us a charmed life," she wrote in an email "He will be terribly missed."

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